When it comes to choosing what to put on your plate, there is no denying that some options offer more benefits than others. The right combination of vitamins and nutrients in certain foods can contribute to an all-around healthier lifestyle and work to keep the signs of aging at bay. Better yet, many of these foods can be easily incorporated into virtually any diet at a low cost and without sacrificing flavor.
Dark, leafy greens are always a safe bet when it comes to healthy eating. Veggies such as kale, spinach, and collards contain high amounts of vitamin K, as well as several plant pigments that aid in the protection of eyesight. They also contain calcium and folic acid, key to preventing bone weakness and degeneration. Cruciferous vegetables such as cabbage, broccoli, and cauliflower contain vitamin C and fiber, and have been shown to have positive effects on cognitive health and memory.
While all fruits contain useful nutrients, berries provide the best bang for the buck when it comes to anti-aging potential. From blueberries to acai, these potent fruits are a leading source of antioxidants, which fight the effects of free radicals responsible for cell damage and chronic inflammation. The antioxidants found in berries have been linked to the prevention of an entire bevy of diseases, including cancer, heart disease, arthritis, and Alzheimer’s. To top it all off, these compounds have been correlated to improved brain function, long-term memory, and muscle retention. They are also an excellent source of vitamin C, which promotes healthier skin and combats wrinkles.
Unlike processed grains, whole grains offer a full spectrum of fiber, vitamins, and minerals with a host of benefits to the human body. High fiber content has the added perk of being digested more slowly, making whole grains more satiating and aiding in appetite control. Whole grains can help prevent a wide range of age-related illness and disease—rates of cardiovascular disease, stroke, diabetes, high blood pressure, and some forms of cancer are significantly lower in those with a diet high in whole grains.
Protein is an often-overlooked component of healthy eating, but in truth it is one of the most important factors for long-term health. Adequate protein intake is necessary to prevent muscular degeneration, a weakened immune system, and chronic fatigue. The best sources of quality protein are lean meats such as poultry, beef, and pork, as well as eggs, beans, and legumes. Certain fish, such as salmon, have the additional benefit of containing omega-3 fatty acids, which are linked to a healthier brain, improved mood, and lowered risk of tissue inflammation. In addition to high protein content, yogurt is another great choice because of its high calcium content and the presence of probiotics that bolster the immune system.
Contrary to what modern fad diets may have you believe, healthy fats are essential for proper bodily maintenance. One simple way to include healthy fats into a diet is to substitute butter for olive oil, which contains antioxidants and unsaturated fats that are linked to lower rates of heart disease, cancer, and Alzheimer’s. Nuts—especially walnuts, almonds, and pistachios—are another source of healthy inflammation-fighting fats, and provide a decent amount of protein, as well.
Coffee, Tea, and Wine
While these may be a surprise to some, moderation is the key in reaping the health benefits of such beverages. The reservatrol in wine—or grape juice, for those who don’t drink alcohol—is a powerful antioxidant that also promotes cardiovascular and arterial health, so long as you limit yourself to drinking five ounces or less each day. Coffee and tea both contain antioxidants linked to preventing heart disease and memory loss, and recent studies have suggested a link between caffeine consumption and lowered incidence of both type-2 diabetes and Parkinson’s disease. As with wine, it is recommended to limit oneself to one cup of tea or coffee per day in order to maximize health benefits without experiencing any side effects.
Incorporating these foods into a daily diet will provide a varied source of powerful vitamins and nutrients proven to improve bodily function. Such a diet can contribute to better eyesight, healthier skin, more abundant energy, and significantly decreased risks of many age-related illnesses, all at a fraction of the cost and effort required for potential medical treatment. Introducing these foods, whether gradually or all at once, is perhaps the easiest and most effective form of front-line defense against the signs of aging.
The Nurses at Partners in Healthcare are available to talk with you about your diet and in-home care needs including how to reduce caregiver stress while providing better, affordable care. We are a senior care agency providing elder home care serves in the Orlando area, 407-788-9393.
Hank Charpentier, BSB, MBA, MA, Certified Senior Adviser